The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays have already matched up 19 times this season, and the Red Sox went 12-7. These two teams know each other, and there won't be any secrets when their division series kicks off on Friday. So, what factors are going to determine whether the Rays can the turn the tide on their AL East rival and advance to the ALCS? Let's take a look.
Rays' X Factor: Jose Molina
The Red Sox offense is notoriously patient, and no team in baseball swung at fewer pitches in 2013 than Boston did. Guys like Daniel Nava, Stephen Drew and Jonny Gomes go up there looking to take pitches early to get into fastball counts, and this approach bleeds through the entire lineup.
Molina is the guy who could help the Rays exploit those tendencies. He is perhaps the game's most notorious pitch framer, using a complete lack of movement behind the plate to convince umpires that pitches off the plate were actually in the zone. He's gotten so good at this that getting rung up on a pitch off the plate is now occasionally referred to as "getting Molina'd."
If Molina can turn a few early balls into strikes, the patient Red Sox hitters might find themselves regularly down 0-1 or 1-2 instead of being in good hitters' counts, and that makes things a whole different ballgame.